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Lake view Belarus

Genealogical research is always a journey into the unknown. We all know that we have ancestors, we may even know exactly or approximately where they come from, but we cannot initially imagine the result of the research. For many, this uncertainty frightens and stops them at the beginning of their journey. Even we, the people directly involved in the research, don’t always know what the outcome of our work will be.

But today we’d like to tell you the story of a successful search, which may inspire you as well.

The geography of genealogical inquiries is very wide, we are approached by people, without exaggeration, from all over the world. Just like that, one February day we received a request from Canada, from Scarlett.

Scarlett wanted to find information about her grandfather’s family, who had emigrated to Canada at a young age. And although her grandfather had managed to visit his family in the 1970s, Scarlett didn’t have much concrete information to latch onto. Of the main ones, the exact date and approximate place of grandfather’s birth, the village of Mihalki or some of the surrounding villages. Our genealogy expert Alexander determined which Orthodox parish Mihalki and other nearby villages belonged to. Fortunately, metric books (birth registration books) for the needed period in this parish weren’t destroyed during the wars and were kept in the Grodno Historical Archives. That’s why our inquiry to the archives brought us the first result: the record of the grandfather’s birth. Such records contain an indication of the place of residence of the parents of the newborn, as well as the names of the parents and godparents. Thus, the amount of accurate information increased.

A small digression:

East Slavic names consist of 3 parts: surname, first name and patronymic. The patronymic indicates the name of the father, used in a certain grammatical form.

Therefore, having the full name of a person, you can tell what his or her father’s name was.

This peculiarity of names is very helpful in genealogical research.

So, we now had the exact place of birth, it turned out to be the village of Mihalki itself; the names of the parents and the names of the parents’ fathers, i.e. the grandfathers of the newborn.

Our task now was to find information about the supposed siblings of Scarlett’s grandfather. We had no exact names, only the anglicized version of the sister’s name, no birth dates either. In such cases, of course, it is logical to make a request to the archives, to check all available metric books for the coming years for other birth records of children to the same parents. This is a long and time-consuming process. But in our case it was not necessary.

The fact is that while working on this request, our researcher Alexander found a book of memories on the Internet, written by former residents of the village of Mikhalki about their ancestors and other residents of the village. There was no mention of Scarlett’s grandfather in the book, but many other people with the same last name were described. But whether we would find brothers or sisters among them was to be determined.

The already mentioned feature of Slavic names, namely “patronymic”, came to the rescue.

Among all the villagers mentioned in the book with the last name we found one whose patronymic was the same as that of Scarlett’s grandfather. The year of birth of this Michalok resident also matched. There was one more thing, the book said he had a sister. The sister’s name did not match the name Scarlett gave us. But in Belarusian, as well as in Russian, there is a peculiarity in everyday speech to abbreviate names. So, one of the possible abbreviations of the name of the sister mentioned in the book was quite consonant with the English name that Scarlett told us. The puzzle seemed to add up, but we could not claim that the person described in the book was Scarlett’s grandfather’s brother 100%. To confirm our assumptions, we asked the archives for a birth record for the alleged brother. Upon receiving the archival record, we breathed a sigh of relief, the names of the parents and even the godparents in Scarlett’s grandfather’s birth record and in the birth record of the alleged brother matched completely. Hooray!

Now it remained to find the contacts of Scarlett’s living relatives, and we learned that they existed from the same book.

It was time to contact the authors of the book. It should also be mentioned that Vera Ivanovna Yudchits (Zakharova), the author of the book, and her sister, Maria Ivanovna Yudchits have created, in addition to the book, a family museum in the house of her grandfather in the village of Mikhalki. Now the museum is a meeting place for relatives and countrymen.

We called Maria Ivanovna, and that very evening we had the phone number of the second cousin of Scarlett, who lives with his wife in Brest.

A few days later the first Skype “conference” between relatives from Canada and Belarus took place.

We hope their communication will continue. After all, there are still many questions that Scarlett would like to find answers to. I would also very much like, that Scarlett with her family one day visited the native places of her grandfather, visited the family museum in the village of Mikhalki.

In conclusion, we would like to thank Scarlett for trusting us to find information about her grandfather’s family. And also to express our gratitude to Vera and Maria Yudchits for keeping the memory of their ancestors alive, for writing a book about the inhabitants of the village of Mikhalki and thus, unexpectedly for themselves, helped Scarlett find her relatives.

Minsk City Gate Belarus

The Belarusian Government has allowed citizens of 73 countries to come to Belarus without visas for vaccination.

According to the Ministry of Health, as of 15 July, foreigners from 73 countries are allowed to enter Belarus without a visa for five days for vaccination against COVID-19.

Vaccination of foreigners against COVID-19 is planned to be carried out on a paid basis in medical organisations determined by the Ministry of Health.

This is a perfect opportunity to combine vaccination with our 5- days Minsk city tour. For further information, please contact us at any time.

States whose citizens are subject to visa-free entry and exit procedures:
  1. Commonwealth of Australia.
  2. the Republic of Austria.
  3. Republic of Albania.
  4. Principality of Andorra.
  5. Antigua and Barbuda.
  6. Barbados.
  7. Kingdom of Bahrain.
  8. Kingdom of Belgium.
  9. Republic of Bulgaria.
  10. Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  11. Republic of Vanuatu.
  12. Vatican City State.
  13. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  14. Hungary.
  15. Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
  16. Republic of Haiti.
  17. Republic of The Gambia.
  18. Federal Republic of Germany.
  19. The Hellenic Republic.
  20. Kingdom of Denmark.
  21. Commonwealth of Dominica.
  22. Republic of India.
  23. Republic of Indonesia.
  24. Ireland.
  25. Republic of Iceland.
  26. Kingdom of Spain.
  27. Republic of Italy.
  28. Canada.
  29. Republic of Cyprus.
  30. Republic of Korea.
  31. State of Kuwait.
  32. Republic of Latvia.
  33. Lebanese Republic.
  34. Republic of Lithuania.
  35. Principality of Liechtenstein.
  36. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  37. Republic of Northern Macedonia.
  38. Malaysia.
  39. Republic of Malta.
  40. United States of Mexico.
  41. Federated States of Micronesia.
  42. Principality of Monaco.
  43. Republic of Namibia.
  44. Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  45. Republic of Nicaragua.
  46. New Zealand.
  47. Kingdom of Norway.
  48. Sultanate of Oman.
  49. Republic of Panama.
  50. Republic of Peru.
  51. Republic of Poland.
  52. Portuguese Republic.
  53. Romania.
  54. Independent State of Samoa.
  55. Republic of San Marino.
  56. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  57. Republic of Seychelles.
  58. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
  59. Republic of Singapore.
  60. Slovak Republic.
  61. Republic of Slovenia.
  62. United States of America.
  63. Eastern Republic of Uruguay.
  64. Republic of Finland.
  65. French Republic.
  66. Republic of Croatia.
  67. Czech Republic.
  68. Republic of Chile.
  69. Swiss Confederation.
  70. Kingdom of Sweden.
  71. Republic of El Salvador.
  72. Republic of Estonia.
  73. Japan.
Kuliches (Easter cakes) Belarus

Next to Christmas, Easter is the oldest and most important Christian holiday.

More than three quarters of all Belarusians are Orthodox Christians. This year, Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 2.

On the Saturday evening before Easter, the faithful go to church for the service, which lasts all night until morning.

Traditionally, the symbols of Easter are the so-called kulich (Easter cake) and painted eggs. These dishes are consecrated in the church during the service on the eve of Easter and brought home.

Easter cakes are traditional baked goods based on yeast. They are baked according to special recipes and beautifully decorated. Unlike the usual yeast dough, other ingredients are added to the dough for the kulich: butter, eggs, sometimes cream instead of milk. This keeps the kulich fresh for a long time.

The Easter egg is a sign of new life. Orthodox people usually paint Easter eggs red, this tradition has been around for centuries. There is a legend from the Gospel of John that Mary Magdalene brought an Easter egg as a gift to the Roman Emperor Tiberius to announce the resurrection of Christ. Tiberius replied that no one could be brought back to life, just as a white egg could not suddenly turn red. And in the same second the egg turned red.

Cakes and painted eggs take a place of honor on the festive table. The morning meal after a strict fast is an important moment in the celebration of Easter.

Pokrovsky Cathedral Grodno Belarus

Carnival celebrations with the so-called Butter Week (Russian: Maslenitza) are over and Orthodox believers have begun Lent, which will last until Easter. In Russian, Lent is called Великий пост (in English: the Great Lent).

Lent is the most important and strictest fast in Orthodoxy, established in memory of the fact that Jesus Christ fasted in the desert for forty days. This fasting period lasts for 7 weeks. In 2021, Lent lasts up to and including May 1, 2021.

Lent is associated with strict dietary restrictions. Foods such as meat, milk, eggs, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, soft bread and baked goods fall under the complete ban; under partial ban – vegetable oil and fish.

For those who are not completely fit in terms of health, the Church allows exceptions. Above all, spiritual purification and contemplation are the main focus during Lent. Fasting in the Orthodox Church also implies a certain moral attitude, which means the rejection of worldly pleasures and spiritual purification.

After Lent, the faithful look forward to the holy feast of Easter. In 2021 we celebrate Easter on May 2.

You can learn more about religions in Belarus here.

We would also be happy to show you the diversity of religions in Belarus on site and invite you to one of our trips on the topic.

Cheerful snowman Belarus

Did you know that apart from New Year’s Eve Belarus also celebrates the so-called Old New Year?

The Old New Year came into our culture together with a calendar change.

In 1918 the Bolshevik government decided to change the calendar. Tsarist Russia lived by the Julian calendar, while Europe lived by the Gregorian calendar. The difference between the two calculation systems was 13 days and caused difficulties in international political and economic relations.

The Russian Orthodox Church did not agree with the transition to the Gregorian calendar and did not move away from the Julian calendar. That is why Christmas is still celebrated on January 7 in our country, while in Catholic countries it is celebrated on December 25.

Traditionally, the Old New Year is celebrated on January 13 in all countries where the Church follows the Julian calendar. These holidays are celebrated in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also in Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Algeria and Tunisia, amongst others.

In Belarus the two “New Years” are still celebrated – the old and the new. So in the night from January 13 to 14 can once again afford to celebrate properly.

The Julian Christmas and the old New Year thus also extend the holidays, for example, in Russia the year starts with long New Year vacations, which usually last until around January 10. In Belarus, only January 7 is a holiday. Old New Year itself is not an official holiday.

In the past, before the Old New Year there was a tradition of a kind of carol singing. Young people and children dressed up and went singing from house to house. They asked for sweets, money and small gifts. It was customary to shower the heads of households with grain, a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The belief was that this would bring peace and prosperity to the house in the new year.

This belief has survived in many places, and so the tradition lives on, especially in the countryside.

You can learn more about customs and traditions surrounding Christian Orthodox holidays in Belarus here.

Holy Trinity Church in Volchin near Brest Belarus

Recently, the church where the last king of the Rzeczpospolita was buried was renovated and reopened. In Vowchyn (Belarusian, Russian: Volchin), a village in the Kamenetz district 35 km from the city of Brest, the first mass was recently held again in the church dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

The church was built in 1729-1731 at the expense of the Krakow nobleman Stanislaw Poniatowski. When his son Stanislaw August, the last king of the Polish-Lithuanian state, was born, he was baptized here.

In 1938 the remains of the last king, who died in Saint Petersburg, were transferred to Poland (at that time Volchin belonged to Poland) and buried in the Holy Trinity Church.

In the mid-1950s the church was closed and given to a collective farm, which used it as a warehouse. The burial place of the last king was looted. In 1988, remains of Poniatowski were handed over to Poland. The ashes of the king were buried in the Church of St. John in Warsaw.

In 2007 the building in Volchin was handed over to the faithful and two years later the restoration of the church began, which has now been completed.

You can visit the Holy Trinity Church during our Brest trip.

abandoned village Belarus

Everything we do in g4 tours we do with passion as we try to approach any request that is brought to us as responsibly as possible. We miss the tourists very much, we remember with nostalgia those who have already visited us and we are very much waiting for the end of the pandemic, when we can welcome new guests. The arrival of tourists is not only an opportunity to show and tell the world about our country, but also an incredible opportunity for communication and mutual cultural exchange. The lack of live communication is felt now more than ever, in this extremely difficult period for all.

It was the urge to make something of this situation and do something meaningful that led us to pay closer attention to another service apart from our classic travels that we offer to our site visitors – genealogical research. We started working on expanding cooperation with a number of specialists and organizations in this field, with a focus on Belarus and Ukraine but also the Baltics. And we also focused on more active advertising of this type of activity. But we did not expect that such an offer could be so in demand. Maybe it is to some extent also the “consequences” of the pandemic and forced isolation, when finally there was time to browse through old family albums and think about whether it is possible to learn more about ones ancestors.

Belarus has throughout its history multiple times been torn between different countries, its territory being subject to migration and different wars. No country in the former Soviet Union has suffered so much from forced displacement, expulsion and war. These tragic moments in Belarus’ history forced many residents to leave their homes. For these reasons people from almost all parts of the world write to us looking for their ancestors scattered in Europe. Interestingly enough, most of the inquiries come from the USA and Australia.

Of course, the search for information is not easy, and no matter how much we would like to help everyone who reverts to us, sometimes it turns records have been lost or destroyed during the war and nothing can be found at relevant archives anymore. But when the search is successful, we really rejoice with our clients. Many of which in the following express their intention to visit their ancestors’ homeland. And this is another challenge for us to develop tailor-made travel programs, so that it would be not just an acquaintance with our country, but really a contact with the past, an opportunity to feel the identity of the region, to understand where ones ancestors lived once upon a time.

Genealogical research is a very personal issue, that’s why we can’t present specific cases in this context, but if any of our clients has a desire to share their history, we will definitely publish it on our website.

Please feel free to contact us for any genealogical or other questions that relate to Belarus.

Yanka Kupala belarusian poet Belarus

Some languages are able to cross national borders, becoming a bridge that facilitates understanding between people of different cultures. Other languages, on the other hand, slumber in old books and are only spoken in remote areas where the wave of globalization has not yet arrived. This fate primarily befalls languages that are spoken by very few people. Fortunately, there are examples of how one’s own language can be cultivated even in small countries.

What is the fate of the Belarusian language? Many people will probably ask themselves one question while reading this: why does such a language actually exist?

The Belarusian language is as old as its Slavic sister languages – Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, etc. The basis for the emergence and development of Slavic languages were the dialects of individual Slavic tribes, which began to settle in the vast territories of Central and Eastern Europe two thousand years ago. The Belarusian language is based on the dialects of three Slavic tribes: the Dregovich, Krivich and Radimich. In principle, the current grouping of Belarusian dialects actually reflects the earlier settlement of the mentioned tribes on Belarusian territory. The oldest manuscripts date back to the 10th-11th century. Today the Cyrillic alphabet is officially used, which has existed since the 14th century. In the 16th century the Latin alphabet appeared.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets coexisted. For a while the newspaper “Nasha Niva” printed texts on two graphic systems, so that all Belarusians could understand what was written, because the Catholics got used to the Latin alphabet, and the Orthodoxy understood only the Cyrillic alphabet. Nowadays, the Latin alphabet is used mainly in toponymy, in names of geographical places. For example, the names of metro stations in Minsk are written in Cyrillic and Belarusian, not in English.

You can read more in our article.

day of commemoration of the dead dziady Belarus

“Dziady” is a day in memory of the ancestors. This day is celebrated by Christians since ancient times at the beginning of November. The word “Dziady” is translated from Belarusian into English as “grandfathers”.

“Dziady” is one of the oldest traditions of Belarusians to remember the deceased ancestors. On this day it is still common to go to the cemetery. The day before, the graves are prepared and cleaned up at home to invite the spirits of the ancestors and to thank them for the care of the dead. Afterwards one washed oneself in the bath house (Banja) and left water and branches for the ancestors. Each family generously gave alms to beggars who were walking through the villages that day.

For “Dziady” even today special dishes are prepared, among others “Kutsja” (barley porridge with raisins), blini (pancakes), fried eggs and meat. Traditionally some of the food and drinks are kept in a special place for the dead.

On this day, families traditionally gather in cemeteries to look after the graves of their loved ones. In contrast to Haloween, this is a “cheerful” festival of remembrance of the dead.

Churches throughout the country hold services. The prayers for the dead can also be said at home. It is customary to remember all the good things a person has done in his life and to thank God for him and his deeds.

About other special holidays in Belarus you can read here.

German tourist with the big mushroom Belarus

The year 2020 was a real test for the tourism industry. Already in January we had planned to welcome a large number of tourists who wanted to get to know our country first hand, but at the end of February it became clear that this season would be difficult due to Corona.

So it was all the more surprising to receive an inquiry from Germany in early June for a two-week tour of Belarus. The arrival was planned for the end of August – beginning of September. Until the last moment we were not sure if our tourist Johannes would come, but luckily everything worked out.

Within 2 weeks we visited almost all of Belarus.

The program included excursions to the cities of Minsk, Vitebsk, Braslau, Grodno, and Brest; getting to know the provincial life in the cities of Glubokoe, Novogrudok, and Lida; visiting churches, places of worship, and mosques in Ivye and synagogues in Grodno, as well as the castles in Mir and Nesvizh. A lot of attention was also paid to nature. We hiked through the high moors in the “Krasny Bor” reserve in the north of the country, watched birds being caught and ringed by ornithologists, observed bisons in the natural environment in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, where we also picked mushrooms and met the dawn with hot tea and lard bread. Also a bicycle tour along the Braslav lakes inspired our guest. He also had the opportunity to get to know the life of the simple Belarusians, their everyday life, traditions, national cuisine and to taste one or the other home-made brandy. We were lucky to take part in the international festival of ethnocultural traditions “Call of Polesie”, which took place in the south of the country on the bank of the river Pripyat. Time flew by and I am sure that our guest Johannes will not forget the joyful memories of his stay in our country so soon.